Peer Review

From: Dana Roth <dzrlib_at_LIBRARY.CALTECH.EDU>
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2007 11:50:42 -0700

David Goodman recently wrote:

"Peer review is not carried out by publishers. It is carried out
completely by scientists--the scientists who submit the papers, the
scientists who submit the papers, the scientists who allot them to
referees, the scientists who do the refereeing. and the scientists who
make the final decision on the basis of the referee's reports. Publishers
claim to organize the process, but it has never been clearly shown just
what they do but pay office expenses and purchase the software to keep
track of the correspondence--and open source software is also available.
Scientists are perfectly able to operate without them, and for many
journals they do just that."

Dana Roth's response:

Having served in an advisory capacity to the Royal Society of Chemistry
on library matters, in the past, David&#8217;s statement struck me as
a somewhat incomplete view of at least the RSC peer review process.

The RSC employs professional in-house editorial staff members (all with
formal training in chemistry and scientific publishing) for their
journals, who work closely with the respective editorial boards. 
They also attend numerous scientific conferences (e.g. over 130
conferences in 2006) and visit research departments, and thus can be said
to be members of the scientific communities that the journals serve.

The majority of papers are submitted directly to the in-house Editors.
The Editors then decide if the manuscript should be sent out for formal
peer review.  This &#8220;screening&#8221; means that the RSC's referees
are not over burdened with large numbers of unsuitable papers and the
authors receive a quick decision.  On average, about 30% of manuscripts
are declined prior to the external peer review.  Once a paper has been
accepted for publication it is edited for clarity and consistency, in
cooperation with authors.

In addition to the editorial process, the RSC web site provides both
linking from article references and citation linking. 

A new service, 'Project Prospect', in partnership with the Unilever
Centre of Molecular Informatics and the Computing Laboratory at Cambridge
University, has also been launched.  During the editing phase, articles
are appropriately marked up by the in-house editors, so that readers can
click on named compounds and scientific concepts in the HTML electronic
journal article to download structures, understand topics, or link
through to electronic databases. The chemical compounds and ontology
terms will also be published as RSS feeds enabling automated discovery of
relevant research.

I understand how David's comments might apply to a very focused journal
in a very narrow field, but I can't imagine very many scientists that
would be willing to expend the time and effort to provide both the
editorial functions and the evolving electronic distribution system
offered by traditional publishers.

Dana L. Roth
Millikan Library / Caltech 1-32
1200 E. California Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91125
626-395-6423  fax 626-792-7540
Received on Fri Apr 06 2007 - 03:35:32 BST

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